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The Path of Learning

 Photo features 2017 standardbred trainer challenge training featuring trainer Mercedes Bennington (author of this article) 

It is very important for any rider to understand how the horse learns. They do not learn like you and I. You have probably wondered why a horse can randomly spook at a random object. Horses actually have 2 parts of the brain that don’t always work together, the active and reactive side. They constantly fight against each other. A horse can walk past a trash can 10,000 times a day, but 1 day they can just spook at it. Why? Because that reactive side of the brain takes over for a split second. The reactive side of the brain is something that can not be trained out of the horse. It’s from being wild, that part of the brain is permanently wired into the brain because that’s how they would stay alive. Whenever you are training a horse or teaching them a new trick, you always have to do the same thing to both sides of the horses body. When you teach the horse something on the left side then go to the right side the horse has no clue what you are asking. It’s because both sides of the brain do not work together. You can spend hours teaching a horse to side pass on the left side, but the moment you ask a horse to do a side pass on the right side it’s like you are starting all over again then the rider gets frustrated and it all falls apart. The big thing to keep in kind is stay calm, and repeat EVERYTHING on both sides of the horses body no matter how small or big it is. 

Everything is build on trust kinda like friendship. If you do not have trust in a friendship then why would you ever trust that friend again? It’s the exact same way withhorses. You must first build a friendship with the horse. Once you have that built up friendship, the horse will then be ready to learn. 

-Mercedes Bennington